Keeping Up With The Candidates, Primary Edition

Just five days to go until Tuesday’s primary, and things have not settled.

Not that anything happened, like one of the perceived leaders of the GOP race being accused of being present and participating in the “legend”ary Manoogian mansion party by someone willing to put his name on it. Mike Cox still denies there ever was a party, and has attacked the affiant, a biker who said he was working security for the affair, by saying he has a rap sheet. (A biker with a rap sheet?! What’s this world coming to!!*) Then he questioned the timing of it. Then he compared himself to Shaquille O’Neal. Each time, the defense gets bolder. The tin hats may have switched sides.

* Sons of Anarchy on FX! Best show on TV not involving the 1960s advertising industry!

As for the campaigns, for weeks now, polling has been so scattershot that many weeks, I’ve opted to not even link to it. The one thing that had been consistent, for the most part, was Andy Dillon’s lead in the Democratic race. Note I said “was.”

This week, the Detroit Free Press and four TV stations commissioned a poll that showed that Lansing mayor Virg Bernero has not only pulled ahead, but may be pulling away. Things seem somewhat bleak for Dillon’s campaign, as Michigan political guru Bill Ballanger of Inside Michigan Politics told Frank Beckman on WJR-AM Bernero will win unless Dillon makes a dramatic push. Considering Bernaro’s campaign appears to be low on cash, it’s not an impossible scenario.

The latest poll shows Bernero with an eight point lead over Dillon, 40-28, with 32 percent undecided. Of course, two weeks ago, polling showed Dillon with a 20 point lead, so perhaps we should just wait and see what happens on Tuesday.

MLive asked both candidates for ideas on fixing Michigan’s economy/tax system. Bernero said he wants to create a state bank of Michigan that will loan money to small businesses. Dillon wants to create a coalition of business, labor, teachers and health care industry leaders to create a better tax policy.

On the GOP side, all of the candidates are making their final appeals to potential voters, who appear to not really care that much. Secretary of State and Mike Bouchard running mate Terri Lynn Land expects that only about 1.7 people will actually go to the polls on Tuesday, or, about 23 percent of registered voters. Cox expects only about 700,000 people to vote in the GOP primary.

As the final ads roll out, Pete Hoekstra is fed up with what he calls “factually incorrect attack ads”:

“Attorney General Mike Cox and his special-interest allies will stop at nothing to mislead voters and falsely attack Pete Hoekstra’s record,” said spokesman John Truscott. “Mike Cox should immediately call on these shadowy third-party groups to end these false attack ads and start being honest with the voters of Michigan.”

In May, he successfully convinced three west Michigan stations to drop ads run by “Americans With Job Security” after he showed the ads made false claims. The most recent ad, run by Michigan Business United, said Hoekstra is “absent on right to life” among other things. Not surprisingly, Cox spokesman Nick DeLeeuw denied the campaign’s involvement.

New endorsements this week go to Rick Snyder, who won the public support of Ford board chairman Bill Ford Jr., Hoekstra and Andy Dillon. The latter two were endorsed by The Grand Rapids Press.

Finally, both Detroit papers are pumping out informational stories designed to help We, The Voters, decide based on the issues. (Ha! Like any election is ever won on the issues!) If something doesn’t appear for one candidate but does for the other, it’s either because the Freep hasn’t run the Democratic analyses yet, or I couldn’t find Pete Hoekstra’s Detroit News Q&A through the paper’s awful search function which doesn’t rank articles in chronological order.

Andy Dillon: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)

Virg Bernero: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)

Rick Snyder: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)/Analysis (Freep)

Mike Cox: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)/ Analysis (Freep)

Pete Hoekstra: Positions (Freep)/ Analysis (Freep)

Mike Bouchard: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)/ Analysis (Freep)

Dr. Tom George: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)/ Analysis (Freep)

Talkin’ #$*@

So, Goldman Sachs is going to start screening employee e-mail, hunting for words that could come back to haunt them.

They’re not searching for evidence of financial wrongdoing or irresponsibility (I suspect because any e-mail which tries to define a credit default swap would be so boring no one would bother using any of it in a sound byte on television). They’re looking for dirty words, after being quoted a dozen times by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who quoted from one of the company’s e-mails about a “sh***** deal.”

And yes, Goldman Sachs will be searching for incomplete cuss-words that include asterisks.

See NPR’s story here.

If you’re in doubt about what kind of words, four-letter or not, should never be in e-mail, be sure to click on the link to “23 things not to say in e-mail,” at the end of the Goldman story. Sort of reminds me of the late, great George Carlin’s seven words you can’t say on television.

The price of wrongful conviction: $2 million

Claude McCollum, who spent more than two years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, has settled his wrongful-conviction suit for $2 million, according to a report in this morning’s Lansing State Journal.

McCollum was convicted four years ago of murdering a Lansing Community College professor in a classroom. Video evidence that showed him sleeping in another part of the campus when the murder occurred never made it to the jury. Later, another man confessed to the murder.

After McCollum was released from prison, he celebrated his freedom by suing everyone who had anything to do with his arrest and conviction. See, The Michigan Lawyer, Will patience pay off in civil suit against prosecutors and police?

Most defendants were dismissed from the case. From the LSJ:

The settlement, reached late Tuesday, brings an end to two and a half years of litigation that eventually centered on whether Lansing Community College police Detective Rodney Bahl hid evidence of McCollum’s innocence.

Three attorneys, Hugh Clarke, Jr., Thomas Wuori and E. Thomas McCarthy, represented McCollum in the civil suit.

They’ve structured the settlement to be paid out over a number of years. Says Clarke in the LSJ:

We have taken all the steps we can to protect him from any of the vultures and con-artists.

Don’t even apply – it’s locked up, it’s not there, and he won’t have it.

DMBA rates Wayne County judge candidates

The Judicial Candidate Evaluation Committee of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association has rated judicial candidates for contested elections in the courts of Wayne County for the August primary.

The Committee is comprised of 31 attorneys from the Detroit Metropolitan area and evaluates the fitness of each candidate for judicial office based upon the candidate’s legal ability (scholarship, analysis, judgment, clarity of expression), trial experience, integrity, honesty, judicial temperament, and reputation, without regard to party affiliation, race or creed.

Ratings are given after review of the candidate’s completed questionnaire and/or an in-person interview conducted with an Interview Panel of the Committee.  The ratings refer only to a candidate’s qualifications for the position of judge in the court that the candidate is seeking, and do not in any way refer to a candidate’s qualifications as a practicing attorney.  The ratings reflect the collective opinion of the Committee and not the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association as a whole.

The ratings for individual candidates are set forth below.  Additional information, including links to the written questionnaire responses provided by the judicial candidates to the JCEC, can be found at .

The Judicial Candidate Evaluation Committee has four categories of ratings:  Outstanding, Well Qualified, Qualified, Not Qualified or No Rating. Ratings were provided only in contested races.

The standards for ratings are as follows:

Outstanding: To be rated “Outstanding,” an individual must stand at the top of his or her profession.  He or she must rank among the very best qualified judges or lawyers available for judicial service.  This candidate must have outstanding legal ability and background, as well as wide experience, wisdom, intellect, insight, and impartiality.  To be accorded the highest rating, a candidate should generally have the breadth of vision and outlook that derives from participation in civic, religious, charitable or political organizations of the community, and the work of the organized bar or other professional associations.  In short, each should be a person whose preeminence in the law and as a citizen is widely acknowledged and whose qualifications are virtually hailed by judges and lawyers.

Well Qualified:  To be rated “Well Qualified,” an individual must exhibit similar qualities indicated for the rating of “Outstanding.”  A “Well Qualified” candidate may have less breadth of experience, but shows the promise of all the criteria above.  Although this is a rating lower than “Outstanding,” it is nevertheless a high rating. A “Well Qualified” candidate may have less breadth of experience, but shows the promise of all the criteria above.

Qualified:  To be rated “Qualified,” a candidate must exhibit a fitness for the judicial office he or she seeks.  A candidate given this rating would be considered average on an overall analysis of the factors set forth above.

Not Qualified:  To be rated “Not Qualified,” a candidate must be considered well below average on an overall analysis of the factors set forth above.

* “A Not Qualified rating indicates that in the opinion of the Judicial Candidate Evaluation Committee a candidate is not qualified at the present time for the judicial office which he or she seeks, but the rating should in no way be construed as an adverse reflection on the candidate’s qualification as a practicing attorney.”

No rating: If a candidate does not submit a questionnaire or attend an interview and there is insufficient information available to the Committee on the candidate’s fitness for the judicial office which s/he seeks, then the Committee does not rate the candidate.  However, if there is sufficient information available to the Committee on the Candidate’s fitness for the judicial office which s/he seeks, the Committee may rate such candidate, even in absence of a questionnaire or an interview.

Third Circuit Judge of the Circuit Court Incumbent 6 Year Terms (19) Positions

Margie R. Braxton – Outstanding

James A. Callahan – Outstanding

Eric William Cholack – Outstanding

James R. Chylinski – Outstanding

Gershwin Allen Drain – Outstanding

Wanda Evans – Not Qualified

Patricia Susan Fresard – Outstanding

David Alan Groner – No Rating

Cynthia Gray Hathaway – No Rating

Michael Hathaway – Outstanding

Muriel Diane Hughes – Outstanding

Timothy M. Kenny – Outstanding

Kathleen Macdonald – Outstanding

Sheila Gibson Manning – Outstanding

Bruce U. Morrow – Outstanding

John A. Murphy – Well Qualified

Lita Helene Popke – Outstanding

Mark Slavens – Outstanding

Jeanne Stempien – Well Qualified

Brian R. Sullivan – Outstanding

Third Circuit Judge of the Circuit Court Non-Incumbent 6 Year Term (1) Position

Susan L. Hubbard – No Rating

Gary Jones – No Rating

John J. Sullivan – Qualified

36th District Court Judge of the District Court Incumbent 6 Year Terms (10) Positions

Lydia Nance Adams – No Rating

Deborah Geraldine Bledsoe Ford – No Rating

Izetta Bright – No Rating

Ella Bully-Cummings – Well Qualified

Ruth C. Carter – No Rating

Katherine L. Hansen – No Rating

Paula G. Humphries – No Rating

Thomasine Jefferson – Not Qualified

Leonia J. Lloyd – Well Qualified

Miriam Martin-Clark – Outstanding

Bill McConico – No Rating

B. Pennie Millender – Well Qualified

Cylenthia LaToye Miller – No Rating

Rohn H. Mitchell – Not Qualified

Wendy M. Readous – No Rating

33rd District Judge of the District Court Incumbent 6 Year Term (1) Position

Gene Ferguson, Jr. – Well Qualified

Jennifer Coleman Hesson – Outstanding

Gordon C. Mobley – Qualified

Edward J. Nykiel – Outstanding

The story just gets stranger

Those who have been watching as Birmingham attorney Norman Yatoomah continues on his quest to prove that the Detroit Police Department botched the investigation of the murder of Tamara Greene, the story just continues to climb the weirdness scale.

He’s got a witness, the first to say under oath, that a fabled party (where Greene is said to have danced) at the Manoogian Mansion not only occurred, but that the guest list was impressive, and he even saw Attorney General Mike Cox get a lap dance. But the witness, Wilson Kay Jr.,  it turns out, has not always been the most upstanding guy, and has a criminal record which casts doubt on his credibility.

The Free Press reports here.

In their opinions

“[T]he majority’s unrestrained decision today is a huge mistake.”

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth A. Weaver, dissenting in Tkachik v. Mandeville.

It’s not too often that you’ll find MSC Justices Stephen J. Markman, Michael F. Cavanagh, Maura D. Corrigan and Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly in agreement about much of anything.

But the four of them formed a majority and ruled that when Frank Mandeville’s wife, Janet, died, he unquestionably received fee simple title to property they held as tenants by the entirety.

No surprise there. But they also ruled that Frank owed Janet’s estate some cash because, well, because he was a cad.

In the last 10 years of their marriage, Frank frequently took long trips to foreign countries. He was gone on one such trip for the 18 months before she died. While Frank was abroad, Janet had to pay the mortgage, insurance and taxes on their property by herself.

He never called or wrote, even though he knew she was battling breast cancer. He didn’t even return for her funeral.

Before she died, she did everything she could, short of divorcing Frank, to cut him out of her life. She wrote him out of her will. She transferred her retirement benefits to keep them from him. She even tried to defeat the right of survivorship in the marital properties through a quitclaim deed.

A few months after Janet’s death, Frank strolled into probate court and petitioned to set aside Janet’s will. Susan Tkachik, Janet’s sister and personal representative, had little trouble convincing the court that Frank had “willfully abandoned” Janet, and, under MCL 700.2801(2) was not a “surviving spouse.”

Then Susan went on the offensive. She filed her own probate complaint, arguing that because Frank was not a surviving spouse, he and Janet had owned the marital property as tenants in common, and that he shouldn’t get fee simple title.

But MCL 700.2801(2), said the probate court, has limited application and certainly doesn’t destroy a tenancy by the entireties. Frank gets the property in fee simple.

Susan wasn’t through. She amended her complaint to seek contribution from Frank for all the mortgage, insurance and taxes payments Janet made before her death.

The probate court didn’t go for that one, either. Nor, after a couple of trips up and down the appellate ladder, did the Court of Appeals.

Writing for the majority, Markman, said that’s just not fair. Susan sought equitable relief, and that’s what she’s going to get.

Our consideration of the “special circumstances” of this case leads us to conclude that the following facts are legally sufficient to permit a claim for contribution between tenants by the entirety:

(a) where the decedent spouse has taken sole responsibility for the property maintenance payments while the other spouse had absolutely no personal contact with her for at least the last 18 months of her life;

(b) where the other spouse did not attempt once to communicate with the decedent spouse during this time, even though he acknowledged that he was aware that she was battling cancer;

(c) where the other spouse was disinherited in the decedent spouse’s will;

(d) where the decedent spouse sought diligently, albeit unsuccessfully, to divest the other spouse of his interest in the real properties before she died; and

(e) where the other spouse was deemed a non-surviving spouse under MCL 700.2801(2)(e)(i).

These unusual facts cry out for equitable relief so that “complete justice” can be done and give us assurance that in granting plaintiff’s remedy we are exercising our discretion carefully and responsibly.

Justices Robert P. Young Jr., Weaver and Diane M. Hathaway dissented. Said Young:

There is an old legal adage that “bad facts make bad law.” This phrase has rarely been as true as on the circumstances giving rise to this case. …

With its decision today, the majority now permits posthumous collateral attacks on the validity of marriages in this state where neither spouse has taken the appropriate legal steps to challenge the marriage or the financial equities of the marriage during life.

In doing so, the majority ignores the perfectly adequate legal remedies that our Legislature created in specific contemplation of marital disharmony — specifically, an action for separate maintenance — instead preferring to craft a new remedy recognized nowhere else in the country.

This rule allowing contribution between tenants by the entireties outside the context of a divorce or separate maintenance action is not supported by a single case or authority from any jurisdiction, let alone authority from Michigan.

As such, the new rule the majority creates today is untested and holds unforeseen consequences that reach much further than the narrow and unassuming decision the majority believes it has issued in this case.

Weaver, in her dissent, quoted Young’s statement with approval and labeled the majority’s approach a “huge mistake.”